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Philip Reynolds is a digital specialist at The Heritage Foundation.
You can see her coming from miles away—a ship with masts, lurching ever-nearer, slowly coming out of the wide, gleaming bay and up the Hillsborough River.
Flag - Skull - Crossbones - Symbol - Meaning
Eventually, you’ll spot it: the black flag bearing a white skull over crossbones, a symbol of unmistakable meaning. The crew will debark at a bend in the river that cuts through the city. They’ll find the mayor, demand the key to the city, and delve into revelries.
There’s a bustle on deck. Tankards clack, people shout, though you probably can’t hear them because of the noise a smaller fleet of gathering vessels stirs.
Sailors - Invaders - Tampa - Pirates - Guests
But the sailors on them aren’t here to repulse the invaders; they’ve congregated to welcome them. That’s right—in Tampa, these “pirates” are honored guests.
Welcome to the Gasparilla Festival.
Ye - Mystic - Krewe - Gasparilla - Group
It began in 1904 when Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, a group of Tampa citizens, held the first “invasion.” Since then, it’s evolved into a tradition that draws crowds and boosts cash flow for local businesses.
It’s named after the pirate Jose Gaspar. Search for info on him, and you’ll find a patchwork of lore. Though his existence is questionable, he’s the festival’s “patron rogue.”
Event - Festivities - Fun - Runs - Music
The event is filled with festivities: fun runs, live music, even a flotilla of yachts, pontoons and fishing boats. The chief spectacle is a parade with pirate ship floats that pass through city streets. Those aboard—many in pirate garb—hurl candy and beads to packed crowds lining the roadways.
“Pirates” sail the Jose Gasparilla II into downtown, and amidst smiles and jest, the mayor hands over the key to the city.
Seems - Harmless - Fun—until - History - Book
More than 300,000 likely will attend. Seems like harmless fun—until you crack open a history book.
Pirates were a scourge of trade throughout the new world. With fast, heavily armed vessels, they patrolled shipping lanes and hunted down...
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